I started watching a new docu-drama about Mars that is running on Nat Geo. The premise is our first attempt to colonize the dead planet. To fully appreciate the task you kinda have to understand a few things about the red dead Planet.
Mars once had an atmosphere that was in many ways similar to ours here on earth about 1000 millibars of atmospheric pressure. There were in fact rivers, lakes and very likely oceans, we know all of this thanks to NASA’s Maven Spacecraft. ( Remember I spent some time working for NASA back in the 80s and early 90s). The Martian atmosphere, according to evidence we have, consisted largely of carbon dioxide and oxygen.
As Mars cooled (internally) it lost it’s magnetic field roughly some 4.2 billion years ago. Without a strong magnetic field to protect it, the solar winds from the sun began stripping away the Martian atmosphere. Needless to say any life that was there wouldn’t be able to maintain itself.
Any ideas about “terraforming” the planet are pure science fiction at this point, and not likely to be resolved. Without a magnetic field to protect the atmosphere, life on Mars has to live beneath the surface and that is assuming that life could become sustainable without the solar energy that powers all life here on earth save for a few obscure organisms that survive in the deep oceans from the heat of the earths core….an ocean that Mars doesn’t have.
Another issue is radiation, even on the International Space Station, astronauts are more protected because it is within the earths magnetosphere. A trip to Mars would take humans between 0ne and two years to reach the planet and the amount of radiation they would get on the trip would be deadly using todays technology.
Suffice it to say we are a pretty good way from solving that big problem, but we ARE working on it and one thing that we humans have excelled at is solving relocation problems. We settled the New World, We settled the West, as “Mars” points out we have even settled Antarctica. So we will, in all likelihood, settle someplace else other than Earth and right now that place seems to be Mars. It would have been a much less daunting task 4.5 billion years ago when Mars had that atmosphere and liquid water and whatnot but 4.2 billion years ago the closest thing to a human on Earth was probably very basic plant life, if that. To put it in perspective we humans have only been around for less than a million years, a LOT less…200,000 to be more precise. Earth is roughly 5 billion years old and Mars and Earth are thought to have formed around the same time but Mars is MUCH smaller than Earth. Earth is about 8000 miles in Diameter, Mars is about 4000 miles in diameter. It was in fact the size that caused Mars to quickly cool enough to lose its magnetic field. More to the point the surface area of Earth is about 200 million square miles, 75% of which is covered in water. The surface area of Mars is about 56 million square miles, none of which is covered in water.
Now getting back to “Mars” the docudrama. They kind of sugar coated the whole radiation thing, and managed to get people to the planets surface, but a long way off course from where the supplies were stockpiled. (naturally….There has to be some drama) In reality the same navigation here on earth that can put a flying explosive warhead in a 1 foot by one foot window, with pinpoint accuracy from half way around the earth would be employed before we put people there so I don’t see that happening in reality.
In the show they do hit all the high points, the things people can easily grasp, like the need to grow food and lessening dependency on shipments from Earth which is at best around 2 years away and can be a LOT longer depending on where each planet is within its respective orbit around the sun.
But what about the subtle things? Assuming we are sending our best and brightest people and the idea is to actually populate the planet, or the interior of it, are we not setting up a colony of hybrid humans, genetically speaking? What about religion, if we send only atheists and agnostics does the colony soon view our religions the same way we view mythology? The same goes for race and even social institutions, from a colonization standpoint it makes far more sense to send a lot more women than men, men can produce far more offspring than women can but what does that mean for marriage and monogamy? let’s not forget keeping the gene pool varied too.
There are far more things to consider than just getting the people there. At this point in our evolution I am not so sure that we are ready for the task of moving the human race beyond Earth we aren’t doing so well on Earth right now, maybe it isn’t the time to export what we call “civilization”.
This was fun to think about and write, y’all feel free to chime in.